This year was my first experience with Summit, Abilene Christian University’s ministry lecture series. This post is kind of long. The short version is: I had a great time, learned a lot, and was encouraged in Christian ministry. If that’s all you want to read, I forgive you. But for the other two of you, there’s more!
It was different than some of the “lectureships” I have attended. There were no big nighttime keynote worship times and sermons. Honestly, I missed that. And each day had it’s own “pathways” or what I would call a track, so you spent most of your day on a particular topic. That gave opportunity to dive down a little deeper than a one hour lesson can, so that was pretty neat. I was a total newcomer to the campus, but the friendly folks that surrounded me made sure I got where I needed to go.
Monday’s Pathway choice for me was DISCOVER THE ENNEAGRAM
This was an all day (9-9) presentation by Dr. Carson Reed and Chelsie Sargent. The enneagram is an ancient personality typing instrument that is characterized by nine personality types. That sounds simplistic, though it truly is not! During the day Ms. Sargent shared a multitude of resources and the main characteristics of each personality type. I think there is much to gain from the Enneagram in terms of gaining insight into our own motives and helping relationships with other people. (For anyone who cares, I’ve known for a long time that I’m a 9.) For each of the types there were books recommended that might be helpful, as well as other resources. For those unfamiliar with the Enneagram and who would like to know more, start off with The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile. (For Podcast listeners, look for the podcast by the same name and also Cron’s Typology podcast). Also Suzanne Stabile’s The Path Between Us: An Enneagram Journey to Healthy Relationships. There are many more resources. If you don’t know your type, you can take a test on your mobile device by downloading the EnneaApp. There are many other assessments available on the internet, to varying degrees of quality. There was offered a deeper dive on the next day, but I decided that I had absorbed all I could for the moment!
Tuesday’s Pathway choice was Churches: It’s Ok to be Small.
Though no one ever said what a “small church” is, the truth is that by far most churches in America are small. The first speaker in that pathway was Jason Byassee, who has written a book entitled, The Gifts of the Small Church (Ministry in the Small Membership Church). One striking thing Mr. Byassee said was, “In retrospect, I was taught to hate small churches.” My initial training in ministry was during the amazing time of the church growth movement, which was focused on numbers and fixing any problems that caused small churches to remain small. Well-intentioned, but it left the message that if you’re a small church something is wrong. His retrospective statement was one I could resonate with. Byassee affirmed that small churches do some things really well. In addition, even large churches must manage ministry by breaking down into smaller groups in order to be attentive in ministry needs. I thought this was an encouraging session.
The second session in this pathway was by Jennifer Allen, who taught about Autism and The Church Today. She shared with us that 7 million children in the US are in special education and have some kind of disability. She provided many Bible verses that reminded us that the natural perspective of Christianity is to minister to those with special needs. That, unfortunately, hasn’t always been the practice. One book she recommended was The Power of Different: The Link Between Disorder and Genius by Dr. Gail Saltz. This was an inspirational and encouraging session that was quite eye-opening with practical ways that churches could be more open to ministering to those with Autism. One statement she made was that “Church inclusion begins with understanding God’s design.” Ms. Allen said, “Put aside our fear of different of those with disabilieis by first understanding the uniquely wired brain that each is blessed with, and then providing accommodations in our own church communities.” Her website is Asbergers101.com … all the notes from this session are posted HERE. Check it out.
The last three sessions were led by Kent Jobe, Austin Wright, and J. Omar Palafox. Each had excellent messages about functioning in small churches. I have to say, though, that Kent Jobe (minister at College Avenue Church of Christ in El Dorado, AR) had the most practical things to say I heard all week. I appreciate his community involvement and the way that he views his work as in connection with the world around him and others who are serving in the name of Christ. I bragged a bunch about him on Facebook, so I’ll let that be all I’ll say here!
Wednesday’s Pathway Choice was Ministry to the Dying and Grieving.
Comfort When The Shadow Falls is the new book by Eddie Sharp and Cheryl Mann Bacon. This book could only be written after many years of ministry and service to the dying and grieving. As someone who has spoken on this subject (and lived through it) I was very interested in this pathway. It was well attended and well presented. In the first segment Sharp presented some encouragements to Christians when someone they know has died. In addition, Ms. Bacon presented some ideas from the perspective of a journalist. In the second segment, a panel was presented that included Sharp and Bacon, as well as Police Chaplain John Knox and Hospice Chaplain Jim Nichols. With decades of experience, the stories they told were riveting and instructive. I picked up a copy of this new book and look forward to reading it.
Some Observations about Texans
I don’t want to get in trouble with my Texan friends, but I did notice some things on my visit to Planet Texas that I don’t see just everywhere. The trucks seem much bigger (is that my imagination?). In parking lots, it seems about 50% of those parked backed into their spaces. Now I know why one of my favorite Texan church member backs into his spot at Forsythe! In Texas, they talk a lot about chicken fried steak. It is referenced on billboards as “world-famous” and “award-winning” … so of course, I had to imbibe while there. In Texas there are 35 Buc-ees stores (and one in Alabama, but for a long time it was just in Texas). They are hard to pass without stopping. People drive fast in Texas! Finally, everyone I met in Texas was super nice.
The ACU Campus
One last observation. The ACU campus is beautiful. Even more, there is a sweet spirit among the people who populate that campus that I enjoyed so much. I loved hearing the bell tower sound out hymns as I walked across the campus at different times. And the JACOB’S DREAM sculpture is simply amazing. It was a great experience visiting ACU for the first time. I especially enjoyed supper at friend Tim Archer’s house with some Compadres and getting to know them! It was fun bumping into people I have known, and meeting new friends. I’m glad my wife Maggy could be with me. I hope to have the opportunity to visit again sometime in the future. Thanks for reading!